This weekend I fell in love. And although this is the bookish kind of love that will nail me as a nerd for life, I fell in love with a book. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat. I read and I read and I read some more. While the wind howled, and the moon grew full, I consumed 771 pages. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has been so well reviewed. However, a handful of people I’ve come across have put it down, wished for it to be over, and not been nearly as enthralled with it as I. All I can say is I’m a fool in love. The magic in this story is the sheer force of words, relentless words forever propelling the story forward. Detail beyond detail displaying rooms, cities, gestures, inner dialogue, all creating a whole world that I willingly stepped into and never wanted to leave. Sometimes a book comes along and you feel that the words flowed through the author. They were the conduit, the scribe, the blessed one that book had chosen to move through. This didn’t feel like that. Craft and consciousness. An amazing combination of fine tuned craft and the ability to see people as they are and as they are perceived. Human nature not at it’s best or worst but in all it’s variations. The proverbial shades of gray. The place we all live in. The places where we live and the places where we hide. The human stage where we lay our scene, a pair of star-crossed lovers attempt to overcome PTSD. Theo, our hero, the young boy we follow as he looses his mother and gains a precious work of art one fateful day. On that day he becomes entwined with Pippa, a red-haired girl, also at the museum. Theo jumps off the page. His voice so strong, his experiences so vivid, his inner dialogue so constant, you are privy to his every thought, as clouded as it all may be. And so why is all this so meaningful? Why do we read novels? Because it seems to be the finest rendition of the human experience beyond the reality of life. And this particular novel is beyond fine.
Here are a few of my favorite bits:
And the fat summer moon shining white and pure overhead, and my love for her was really just that pure, as simple and steady as the moon.
And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.
Though even when I couldn’t see it I liked knowing it was there for the depth and solidity it gave things, the reinforcement to infrastructure, an invisible, bedrock rightness that reassured me just as it was reassuring to know that far away, whales swam untroubled in Baltic waters and monks in arcane time zones chanted ceaselessly for the salvation of the world.
That first glimpse of pure otherness, in whose presence you bloom out and out and out.